Hopelessly Devoted to Gumbo

gloria roy talks gumbo in port arthur texas

A Gumbo Primer: GUMBO WEEK 2024

Gumbo is the elixir, the lifeblood of the Cajun diet. The savory bowl of brown liquid warms us literally and lovingly. It’s our chicken soup for the soul. It’s what we ask Grandma to have ready for us when we come visit. If you’re from around here, you know what we mean. If you’re coming to visit us, we want to fill you in and fill you up. Read up on our gumbo way of life and enjoy Port Arthur’s Gumbo Week!

Stew or Soup?

Restaurant menus list gumbo as soups or appetizers. It’s been called a soup or stew, but in Southeast Texas, it’s a thing of it’s very own. Gloria Roy-Pate, one of our Cajun experts, is happy to share some of her thoughts on what’s got to be our favorite dish. We often crave it in cooler months, but Port Arthur has a warmer climate most of the year. She wants you to know, it’s never too hot to make and eat gumbo.

“Just turn dat termostat down, sha!” is what she says.

If you research gumbo on the internet or talk to folks without ties to Louisiana or Port Arthur, the official Cajun Capital of Texas, you may get some bogus info, Roy-Pate says. We’re willing to agree that families have different traditions, but we here tend to agree with the following:

“Never, ever put tomatoes in gumbo,” she says.

She Knows Her Stuff

cajun sounds internet radio logo

Roy-Pate began her own internet-based radio station, Cajun Sounds Internet Radio, which plays Cajun music all day long. It’s a 24/7 outreach bringing the Cajun culture to the world, she calls this “labor of love.”

She was one of seven children born in Beaumont to parents from Church Point, Louisiana. She and her late husband, Dallas Roy, helped charter the Golden Triangle Chapter of the Cajun French Music Association. Now married to musician Freddie Pate, she is organizing the Cajun Heritage Festival. This good time is set for Saturday, April 6 of 2024 at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur.

Food is part of the Cajun discussion. Let’s hear about Roy-Pate’s gumbo passion.

Holy Trinity

This is the trio of ingredients found in so much Cajun cooking. Some folks think one of those is celery. For Roy-Pate it’s not. Her trinity is onions, bell peppers and green onion tops.

“A gumbo is always started with a beautiful chocolate-colored roux, made from flour and oil. But if you’re busy – or lazy like me – Douget’s roux works wonderfully,” Roy Pate says.

You heard her. Roux from a jar for this working woman. (We’ve done it, too.)

First you start with your roux and get this trinity working. Then the real decisions begin. 

Sausage or Seafood? Or Something Else?

bowl of gumbo in port arthur texas
A steaming bowl of gumbo from Judice’s 1927. Photo courtesy of Lauren Bebeau.

Gumbo is often grouped into chicken and sausage or seafood. Pate always uses Cajun made or smoked sausage. Her seafood blend is shrimp, seafood and okra, she’s been known to add peeled boiled eggs.

Other families concentrate on duck, goose or turkey. The day after Thanksgiving, many families are boiling their turkey bones in anticipation of turkey gumbo. Christmas gumbos are a big deal around here as well. Oh, the anticipation…

Pate’s “not for me” list includes andouille sausage and file gumbo. Everybody has her favorites. Family customs go way, way back.

Rice is Nice. And Also Mandatory

Gumbo and potato salad at The Feed Store. Photo courtesy of Lauren Bebeau.
Gumbo and potato salad at The Feed Store. Photo courtesy of Lauren Bebeau.

You’ve got to make a pot of rice along with your pot of gumbo. “Gumbo is always served over a bowl of hot, steaming rice,” Pate says. We wouldn’t think of giving it to her any other way.

Potato salad is a common side dish, as is cabbage slaw. In some places, folks plop potato salad into their gumbo bowl. We’re just not going to talk about that anymore. You really don’t see that too much in Port Arthur.

Who Started It?

The Mi’Kmaq tribe taught Acadians of Nova Scotia who settled in Louisiana swamps how to make gumbo, according to Roy-Pate’s research. The Spanish, South African and Caribbean cultures contributed to this concoction using many spices and root vegetables. They shared with their new neighbors, now known as the Cajuns, she says.

The Mardi Gras Run

couple enjoying mardi gras in southeast texas
Gloria Roy and husband, Freddie Pate, at Mardi Gras of SETX

Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas began in Port Arthur, featuring a Courir de Mardi Gras. With much Louisiana background, from fringed costumes to music and community bonding, featured a captain on horseback. Riders would go from house to house to gather ingredients for a big chicken and sausage gumbo for all to share.

You can hear more about Gloria Roy’s love for Cajun Music and Culture in this episode of local podcast, Bayoulands.

Hungry yet?

When you get to Port Arthur, try our area restaurants. Take a photo of your gumbo experience and post it with #flavorsofPATX

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